In February 2007, Nelson and I returned to the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and sent out a team from HEAL Africa Hospital to search for Lumo. After a long and dangerous journey through rebel territory, they managed to locate her and bring her back to the hospital. There we filmed her talking about the past year of her life (see the accompanying video). After Lumo had returned to her village, she was immediately embraced by her family and community. They told her she looked healthy and happy, and were impressed with all the skills she had learned during her stay at HEAL Africa Hospital. She was also reunited with her ex-fiancé and they lived happily together for a couple of months. Then tragedy struck when her fiancé was killed by rebels occupying her village. Shortly after, Lumo discovered that she was leaking urine again — her fistula had reopened.
After getting an examination at HEAL Africa Hospital, Lumo was readmitted as a fistula patient. Even though she had already spent two years going through five operations at the hospital, she was back at square one. Lumo was frustrated by the thought of having to endure another operation and devastated by the loss of her fiancé, but she also seemed happy to return to the safe and nurturing environment of the hospital. Many of her friends — both counselors and patients — were still there.
Nelson and I had the unique opportunity to watch the film with Lumo. Although she loved the film and was happy to know that her story was being told all over the world, her reaction was quite bittersweet, as she knew she was going to have to go through the whole recovery process again.
Since our visit with her last February, Lumo has received her sixth operation, this time by a world-renowned surgeon who specializes in fistula repair. After a month of recovery, doctors determined that she was 100 percent healed and could return home. As a result of several kind donors who wanted to help Lumo and the other women at HEAL Africa Hospital, we have now raised enough money to build her a new home in a safer region. Although Lumo is optimistic and eager to resume a normal life, she’s fearful of what the future may hold in her war-torn region.
We have been sharing Lumo’s story all over the world for the past year now, through dozens of screenings at festivals, at educational cultural, and religious institutions, and in living rooms. Through our screenings, awards and publicity, Lumo has helped raise awareness of the plight of Congolese rape survivors on a global scale. We hope that Lumo’s story will help change people’s attitudes and behavior not only toward Congolese women, but also toward any woman.